Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 15 2016 01:00PM

I subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, so imagine my excitement when this week’s edition included. . . me – or, rather, a link to an excerpt from Among the Janeites posted recently on a website that covers my home state of New Jersey.


NJ Spotlight is not your typical Janeite venue, specializing as it does in “news and analysis about politics and public policy in New Jersey.” As far as I’m aware, Jane Austen never expressed any opinion about New Jersey or anything to do with it. But for the past few years NJ Spotlight has been running a “Summer Reading” series featuring excerpts from books by Jersey authors, and my turn rolled around in late August.


Through the magic of this new-fangled Internet that all the kids are talking about these days, the Bath Jane Austen Centre seems to have run across the NJ Spotlight excerpt. Now if only the Jane Austen Centre's newsletter could come to the attention of folks looking for the perfect gift for the Janeites in their lives. . .


By Deborah Yaffe, Apr 28 2016 01:00PM

Listening to a really good actor read aloud from a really good book is one of life’s great pleasures, not to mention my go-to strategy for surviving long, boring car rides. So imagine my excitement when I learned that a troupe specializing in actorly read-alouds will include an excerpt from my book Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom in an Austen-related program this coming Sunday in Denver.


“Welcome to Austenland,” presented by Stories on Stage at Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center, will feature readings from three works: Among the Janeites; an obscure little novel called Emma; and “What Would Austen Do?” by the mother-daughter team of Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, one of the funniest stories in Laurel Ann Nattress’ Jane Austen Made Me Do It collection.


If I still lived in Colorado, I would totally be there, even if my book weren’t on the program. Alas, work and family obligations will prevent me from attending, but if any of you go, please post a review here.


By Deborah Yaffe, Apr 11 2016 01:00PM

My next book-related event is scheduled for this Wednesday, April 13, in Princeton, NJ: I’ll be speaking at our lovely independent bookstore -- Labyrinth Books, 122 Nassau Street -- starting at 6 pm.


My talk is sponsored by the Princeton Public Library, which, later this month, will host novelist Curtis Sittenfeld. Her newest book, Eligible, which comes out later this month, is an update of Pride and Prejudice, and the latest entry in the benighted Austen Project. (Blog readers know that I’m not a fan. On the other hand, I’m cautiously optimistic about Eligible, which has some good early buzz.)


Because of the tie-in to the library’s Sittenfeld program, I’m not delivering my usual why-you-should-read-Among-the-Janeites book talk. Instead, I’m giving a talk titled “Rewriting Pride and Prejudice: The Austen Project in the Age of Jane Austen Fanfiction.” But I will be happy – nay, delighted! – to sign copies of my own book for anyone who’s been kind enough to buy one.


The web sites of the bookstore and the library have more details, as does the Events section of my own site. Hope to see you there!


By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 14 2016 01:00PM

Readers of my book Among the Janeites may remember one particularly colorful character: Arnie Perlstein, the Florida lawyer who vigorously promoted his controversial theories about hidden subtextual stories in Jane Austen’s novels.


Now it’s possible to see Arnie in action. The most recent episode of First Impressions, a new Janeite podcast viewable on YouTube, features a ninety-minute interview with Arnie, conducted by the podcast’s hosts, two thirty-ish DC-area friends named Maggie and Kristin.


The podcast focuses on what Arnie believes to be the shadow story of Emma, a sordid tale of adulterous love, crisis pregnancy and clever cover-up. Maggie and Kristin’s podcasting style leans to the shaggy and spontaneous – much white wine is consumed on camera – and their questioning is sympathetic, if sometimes skeptical.


Under their probing, Arnie freely voices many of the opinions that have made him a figure who inspires exasperation, even loathing, among many – though certainly not all – Janeites:


--Austen was bisexual, and her novels feature plenty of hidden-in-plain-sight homosexual pairings. “All of her novels are slash fiction,” Arnie asserts.


--Noble Mr. Knightley is after Emma’s money (“Oh, Arnie, why do you have to ruin the romance?” wails Maggie.)


--The family-generated myth that Jane Austen was a sweet, unthreatening spinster aunt has helped blind generations of readers to her radicalism. “It took two hundred years for these secret messages she planted in everybody’s mind to sprout,” Arnie argues.


--Even writers like Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain, who are on record saying they hated Austen, were closet Janeites. “It’s like six degrees of separation. There is no [great] author before her or after her who is not directly connected to her,” Arnie says. “They’re all engaged with her in some way. It’s like this big picture, that Jane Austen is the center of a wheel.”


Love him or hate him, it’s vintage Arnie.


By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 21 2015 01:00PM

One of the many pleasures of researching Among the Janeites was the chance it gave me to meet fellow Austen fans from across the country and, during the trip to England that I recount in Chapter 2, those from overseas.


So I read with interest this item, which made the UK news earlier this month, reporting the retirement of Karen Rudd, the property manager of Mompesson House in Salisbury. Readers of ATJ will remember that Rudd welcomed our JASNA group to this beautiful eighteenth-century house, which stood in for Mrs. Jennings’ London home in the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility.


Rudd was a delightfully forthright hostess, telling funny stories about the shooting of the film and, when I interviewed her, speaking perceptively about Austen’s appeal. ”People don’t realize what an ardent feminist she was,” Rudd told me. “She railed against the whole ridiculous nonsense of primogeniture. And that’s what she’s writing about. It’s not nibbling a biscuit with a cup of tea with other ladies whilst talking about the weather.”


Plus Rudd has a thing for Mr. Knightley, and who among us can disagree with that?


Rudd is stepping down after twenty-five years on the job. I hope her retirement brings her many opportunities to reread Emma. Perhaps with a cup of tea and a biscuit at her elbow.


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